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A city is usually space where it is possible to get disappointed with the failure of scientific and technological progress. Indeed, who should care for smart gadgets and technologies that are to make life easier if we miss some fresh air and cool green areas in the summer heat?
It turns out, that smart solutions can be used to make urban spaces more human-friendly and safe and comfortable for living. This is the mission of the Armenian National Academy of Science Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies (EcoCentre) which is involved in the Connecting Nature consortium within the framework of the project Horizon 2020 financed by the European Union. The Trinity College Dublin coordinates this consortium which is composed of 29 organisations from 16 European states, has an aim of improving urban spaces through the use of nature-based innovative solutions.
“Thanks to the efforts of the EcoCentre, Armenia’s capital was selected along with other 14 European capitals, which will be developed with nature-based solutions. Those solutions will be introduced to Yerevan Municipality to maintain the city’s environmental harmony,” Head of Geo-Information Systems and Remote Sensing Department Armenian National Academy of Science Center for Ecological-Noosphere Studies (EcoCentre) Shushanik Asmaryan.
The cooperation with European institutions is not a new for the Center. Before taking part in Horizon 2020, they participated in another consortium implementing a project financed by the European Union which paved the way for the participation in Horizon 2020.
Horizon 2020 is a major long-term project with a budget size of ca. 80bn euros and a span of seven years (2014-2020). The overall aim of the project is to put the research and innovation into the service of economic and social ends, while Horizon 2020, unlike similar earlier projects, emphasises not that much on the study itself, rather than identifying spheres where it can be implemented and relevant technologies introduced. Thanks to it different enterprises can offer more competitive and up-to-date produce or services, new jobs can open and everyday life can become more comfortable and environment-friendly. Armenia, which is a part of Horizon 2020 since November 2016, has an excellent chance to make use of its opportunities and have its input in global developments.
The EcoCentre, before being involved in the Horizon 2020 had held research on developing a project on functional greening. “Functional greening means to plant in selected areas selected plants taking into consideration their metal- and dust-absorbing qualities,” explains Shushanik. She adds that the center has studied soil and air pollution with the help of images from the space, which will enable to make specific greening suggestions on the street or neighbourhood level.
Those recommendations, however, stayed on paper, due to primarily financial reasons, although the idea was there and after a certain refreshing it can be used as a part of the current project.
This idea is an example of a nature-based solution, which matches the aims of the Horizon 2020’s Connecting Nature consortium.
“They were very interested in our project, as in many other European capitals greening has only a design function,” Shushanik says.
Apart from that, the center has come up with other “green” ideas as well. One of them, which was partially implemented thanks to financial support by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation, is aimed at improving the natural environment of Yerevan kindergartens. As of the project concept a kindergarten was selected in the worst environmental situation, on whose territory a “green wall” was set up to physically protect the children from the dust, noise, and pollution of the street.
Although Horizon 2020 does not allocate financial resources for such kind of construction, it will fund efforts to find donors for this kind of project.
Another important issue in urban space is the so-called “heat islands,” which are created due to insufficient ventilation, microclimatic specificities, in areas where heated air accumulates.
Such spaces can exist in the city center of Yerevan - dotted with high-rise buildings w not planned earlier, which are blocking fresh air movement and creating unfavourable conditions for natural ventilation.
Roads surfaced with asphalt, concrete-covered spaces, a surge of buildings covered with stone contribute to this phenomenon.
Photo and thermographic shooting of the earth have been involved in this research, and the issue has been studied over several years, Shushanik tells.
A project component, which is photo shooting with a high-resolution camera, has been implemented thanks to funding by the Armenian Ministry of Education and Science State Committee of Science which awarded the grant bypassing the competition thanks to a privilege accorded by the fact of participating in the Horizon2020.
“We plan to have green walls in all of the kindergartens in Yerevan till 2022 as well as dramatically increase vertical greening or green facades,” Shushanik says and smiles imagining how Yerevan can become greener in just a few years.
It is wonderful that such research is done in Yerevan - a city with a very peculiar climate and quite serious environmental issues. The accrued experience can be helpful for other places too, thus contributing to the global aim of living in more healthy and dynamically developing cities.
About the EU Horizon2020
Horizon 2020 is the major EU project aimed at supporting research and innovation with a budget of around 80bn euros and with a span of 7 years (2014-2020).
It also supports the EU’s international cooperation activities in science. Armenia joined Horizon 2020 in November 2016.
Universities, research institutions and enterprises from associated countries can apply for participation in a co-cooperative project on equal footing with their EU counterparts and jointly with at least two international partners.
Horizon 2020 pays special attention to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), particularly those that offer revolutionary ideas, as well as produce and service.
The projects support the investment of innovative technologies in production, service and other sectors contributing to the resolution of economic, social, environmental and other issues.